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Cardboard Cat Rocket 


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Cardboard Cat Rocket 

Written By: Haley Pierson Cox 


Bone folder (1) 

Box cutter (1) 

Drill (1) 
or awl 

Hot glue gun (1) 

Long ruler (1) 
or yardstick 

Paintbrushes (1) 
or sponges 

Pencil (1) 
or marker 

Screwdriver (1) 

Strin g (1) 

Tape measure (1) 

Wrench (1) 

thumbtack (1) 


Cardboard boxes (4) 

Carpet squares (2) 

Washers (68) 

Nuts (34) 

Screws (18) 

Screws (16) 

Duct taped) 

Paint (1) 

in your favorite colors - 1 used Crayola 

Washable Kid's Paint 

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Page 1 of 20 

Cardboard Cat Rocket 

No matter how many fancy cat toys they have, there is nothing in this world that makes my 
cats happier than a good old fashioned cardboard box. So, taking a cue from them, I 
designed a cat tree that turns four regular cardboard boxes into a flashy two-story cat 
rocket, complete with carpet for scratching and a porthole to jumping into and spying out of. 
And, wouldn't you know, it worked! I don't think I've ever seen my cats more excited. 

My husband has a soft spot for the Tintin books from his childhood, so we painted our rocket 
with the trademark red and white checkerboard design that he remembers so fondly. You 
don't have to follow our lead, though. Feel free to paint your cat rocket to match any rocket 
ship you'd like! 

Select the box that you will use for the bottom of the rocket and lay it flat. Find and mark 
the center of one side by drawing two diagonal lines from corner to corner, and making a 
dot where the lines cross. (Make sure you do this in pencil so you can erase the lines 

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Cardboard Cat Rocket 

• You will create a 12" curved entrance on the side you just marked. To do this, you'll need 
to make a compass: Tie a piece of string around a pencil (as close as possible to the 
lead), and then tie a knot in the string 6" away from the pencil. Insert a thumbtack into the 
knot, and then stick the thumbtack into the center mark that you made in Step 1 . 

• Draw a 12" circle, then draw two straight lines down to the bottom of the box on either side 
of the circle. Finally, draw a line along the bottom edge of the box to connect the two lines 
you just drew across the bottom. 


Cut out this entrance using a box 
cutter. Make sure you put a cutting 
mat or extra layer of cardboard 
inside the box before cutting so you 
don't cut through the other side of 
the box. 

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Cardboard Cat Rocket 

• To keep your rocket structurally 
sound, you'll need to line the 
bottom box with a second box so 
the walls are double-layered on 
three sides. To make the liner, lay 
the second box flat and cut off the 
top and bottom flaps, then remove 
one of the four sides. 

• Set the extra pieces aside - you'll 
need them later. 

Step 5 

Set up the bottom box so it is a 
fully-opened cube. (Don't tape or 
glue it in this shape - we'll do that 
later.) Insert the liner into the 
bottom box, taking care that the 
corners don't catch along the sides 
and rip. Place the open space on 
the side with the entrance. The 
three non-entrance sides will now 
be lined. 

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Cardboard Cat Rocket 

• Facing the entrance, you will now cut a square in the top of the box, in the back left corner. 
(This is how the cats will get from the bottom level to the second level of the finished 
rocket.) Draw an 8" x 8" square on the two top flaps in this location, placing it 2" from each 
side of the box. Cut through both flaps to create a square opening in the top of the box. 

• Set aside the bottom level. 

Take the third box and lay it flat. 
Create a 10" porthole on one side 
by finding the center and drawing a 
circle with a string compass like 
you did in Steps 1 and 2. (Your 
string length will be 5" this time.) 
Cut out the porthole with a box 

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Cardboard Cat Rocket 

• Next, you will cut a square hole in 
the bottom of the second level that 
lines up with the square hole you 
cut in Step 6. 

• To do this, set up the second level 
box so it is a fully opened cube. 
(Again, don't tape or glue it in this 
shape yet.) Place it on top of the 
bottom level box, lining up the 
porthole so that it faces in the 
opposite direction from the 
entrance on the bottom level. (The 
porthole will be on the front of the 
finished rocket and the entrance 
will be in the back.) 

• Sticking your head into the 
entrance on the bottom level, trace 
the square you cut in Step 6 onto 
the flaps of the box above. Cut this 
square out of the two flaps of the 
second-level box. The openings on 
the top and bottom levels should 
now line up when the boxes are 

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Cardboard Cat Rocket 

• We have carpet squares to place 
inside these boxes, but we'll need 
to cut that same 8" square in one of 
them, so the cats can get through! 
To do this, turn one of the carpet 
squares over and set the second- 
level box on top. Trace the square 
on the back side of the carpet, and 
cut it out with the box cutter. 

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Cardboard Cat Rocket 

Step 10 — Make the top cone 




• Now, we'll make the pointed top of the rocket. Take the third box and mark the center point 
on the top edge on all four sides. Starting at this point, draw a diagonal line to the bottom 
corner on each side, then draw a horizontal line along the bottom, creating a triangle. The 
four triangles you make will be the sides of your top cone. 

• Before cutting them out, add a tab to each triangle by drawing a parallel line 2" out from left 
side of all four triangles. Shorten the tab on the top by measuring 5" down and drawing a 
perpendicular line to meet the side of the triangle. Do the same on the bottom, measuring 
4" up and drawing a perpendicular line to meet the side of the triangle. Repeat for all four 
pieces, then cut out your tabbed triangles. 

• All four tabs should be on the same side. 

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Cardboard Cat Rocket 

Step 11 

With a bone folder, score and fold the tabs on all of the triangles so the cone will bend 
properly when put together. Make sure to score only the side of the tab that will be on the 
inside of the cone. 

Step 12 

Before you assemble the cone, 
you'll need to prepare the second- 
level box for the cone to be 
attached to it. Lay the second-level 
box flat, and then trim the top flaps 
so they're just 2 1/2" tall. You will 
attach the cone pieces to these 
newly-shortened flaps. 

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Cardboard Cat Rocket 

Step 13 

Now, let's build the top cone. Using one of the tabbed triangles as a template, line up the 
bottom of the triangle with the bottom edge of the flap and trace the angle on each side. To 
make sure the top flap isn't visible when you attach the cone, make it slightly smaller by 
moving the line you just drew in by 1/4", still using the triangle as a template for tracing. 
Cut flap to size using the new lines. Repeat on all 4 sides. 

Step 14 

• It's time to build the cone. On the 
top and bottom of each triangle tab 
from step 10, mark your hole 
locations by measuring 1" toward 
the center of the tab and 1" up from 
the top and bottom edges. Each tab 
will have one centered hole at the 
top and at the bottom. Mark all four 
triangle tabs. 

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Cardboard Cat Rocket 

Step 15 

• To attach the triangles, line the tabbed edge of the first triangle up with the non-tabbed 
edge of the second triangle. Using a drill or an awl, make a hole through both the tab and 
the second triangle as marked in step 14. Using a 3/8" screw and a nut, connect the 
triangles through each hole, placing a washer on both the front and back sides of the 
screw. Once the first two triangles are connected, add the third triangle in the same way. 

• I hand-tightened all of the screws and nuts in this project, but you can use a 
screwdriver and wrench if you prefer. 

Step 16 

To attach the fourth triangle, you 
will need to line up and drill/punch 
holes in both the tabbed and non- 
tabbed sides before connecting it to 
both the third and first triangles. 
Once you connect the fourth 
triangle to each side, your cone will 
be fully assembled. 

Set the cone aside - it will be added 

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Cardboard Cat Rocket 

Step 17 — Add the fins 

B3l -^^^ 

• Grab three of the flaps you set 
aside when making the liner in Step 
4. Cut each flap in half diagonally, 
creating 6 triangles. 

Step 18 

On each long, non-diagonal side, 
measure in 1" and use a bone 
folder to score and fold a tab. You 
will be gluing two triangles together 
to make each fin, so make sure the 
tabs in each set fold out in opposite 

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Cardboard Cat Rocket 

Step 19 

• Glue the triangles together to make 
the fins, then cut the extra length 
off of the top of each tab. 

Step 20 

Mark the hole location on the tabs 
of each fin by measuring in 1/2" 
toward the center of the tab, then 
2" down from both the top and 
bottom edges. 

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Cardboard Cat Rocket 

Step 21 

• Lay the assembled bottom box on 
its side. Find the center of the top 
edge on one side, then draw a 
vertical line down the center from 
top to bottom. Repeat for each of 
the three sides without the 

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Cardboard Cat Rocket 

Step 22 

• Line a fin up on this center line so 
that the bottom of the fin lines up 
with the bottom edge of the box. 
Using a drill or awl, make a hole for 
each screw through the fin tab, 
box, and lining. Make all the holes 
on all sides before connecting the 

• Once all holes are made, attach the 
fins to all three sides using 1/2" 
screws and nuts, placing washers 
in both the front and the back of 
each screw. To avoid unnecessary 
cat-poking, the head of each screw 
should face the inside of the cat 
rocket. The fit might be a little tight, 
so you may need a friend to help 
push the layers together. 

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Cardboard Cat Rocket 

Step 23 — Attach the second level to the bottom level. 

-£ x- 

• Using duct tape, secure the top and 
bottom flaps of the bottom-level 
box in place. (Feel free to use hot 
glue on the bottom flaps for added 
durability.) Do the same for the 
bottom flaps on the second-level 

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Cardboard Cat Rocket 

Step 24 

• Place the second level on top of 
the bottom level, lining up the 
square holes on the inside and the 
edges of the boxes on the outside. 
As pictured above, drill or punch 
holes through the top and bottom 
flaps (four layers). Connect the top 
and bottom levels with 1/2" screws 
and nuts, placing washers in both 
the front and back of each screw. 
Place the head of each screw in 
the bottom-level box, with the nut 
side facing up into the second-level 
box. (You will later cover this with 
a carpet square, so don't worry 
about cat-poking.) 

• Again, it may be a tight fit, so you 
may want to have a friend around 
to help push the layers together. 

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Cardboard Cat Rocket 

Step 25 — Attach the cone to the top, 

• Make sure those trimmed flaps on 
the top of the second-level box are 
folded to the inside, and then 
center the cone on top of the 
rocket. On each side, punch 
centered holes through both the 
bottom of the cone and the top flap. 
Reaching through the porthole for 
access, connect the cone to the 
second level on all sides with 3/8" 
screws and nuts, using washers on 
both the front and the back sides of 
the screws. (I placed the screw 
heads to the outside on these.) 
Attach the front side first, followed 
by the back, then finishing with the 

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Cardboard Cat Rocket 

Step 26 — Decorate and paint, 

• Take two more of the leftover flaps 
from Step 4 and lay them down 
side by side, holding them together 
with a little duct tape. Trace the 
circle that you cut out from the 
porthole in Step 7 onto the flaps, 
centering the circle over the crack 
where the flaps are attached. Using 
the string compass method, draw 
another circle around the one you 
just traced that is 2" larger. 

• Cut out the ring and attach it to the 
porthole using 3/8" screws and 
nuts with a washer on each side. 
(Place the heads of the screws on 
the outside of the box this time, as 
shown above.) Add extra washers 
to the bottom of each screw as 
needed, so that there's no extra 
screw length sticking out of each 

■ I only used 4 screws to hold ji*^# 
my porthole frame in place, \ * I 
but you can use more for 

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Cardboard Cat Rocket 

Step 27 

• Paint your rocket in any way that 
suits you. Once it's dry, insert your 
carpet squares into the top and 
bottom levels. 

• If the paint warps the cardboard a 
bit while it's drying, remember that 
you can always stick things back in 
place later with a little hot glue. 

• You're done! Sit back and let the 
cat games begin. 

This document was last generated on 201 2-1 1 -03 01 :09:37 AM. 

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